Tupi’s Culinary Trailblazer: Café Cerveza Gastropub Experience


Tupi’s Culinary Trailblazer: Café Cerveza Gastropub Experience

During Allan Jay S. Cajandig's academic sabbatical for his dissertation, he was inspired to venture into the food industry. Despite his family's existing interest in the same field, it was his unwavering determination that led to the establishment of Café Cerveza Gastropub in Tupi, South Cotabato.

Even though Cajandig, the Campus Director of Sultan Kudarat State University's (SKSU) Palimbang campus, lacked experience in the food industry, he held a firm belief in his vision to establish a gastropub. In 2019, the concept of Café Cerveza was born, a collaborative effort between four individuals: Rez Mark D. Sumog-oy, Bryan Rey E. Taplac, Edelyn D. Jacinto, and Cajandig himself. They pooled their ideas, expertise, and experiences to bring this vision to life. The team conducted an extensive search within Tupi to find the perfect location for their gastropub.

“I found Tupi to be a beautiful place, but there aren’t enough restaurants to cater to the tourists who visit the town. The municipality is one of the top tourist destinations in South Cotabato. Vehicles frequently traverse Tupi as it serves as one of the major highways in Region 12,” Cajandig said.

Cajandig harbors a strong belief in the potential success of their culinary venture, given Tupi's status as a tourist hotspot. He understands that visitors are drawn not only to the town's scenic attractions but also to its gastronomic offerings.

Café Cerveza marked its inception with a soft launch on December 8, 2019. The initial public opening posed a set of challenges for Cajandig and his team. To gain a comprehensive understanding of business operations and management, Cajandig immersed himself in various roles within the gastropub.

On February 28, 2020, they celebrated a grand opening, aiming to fully tap into the potential of their culinary enterprise. Unfortunately, in the ensuing month, the world was thrust into a complete lockdown due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tupi’s Culinary Trailblazer: Café Cerveza Gastropub Experience

The challenge of the pandemic

The pandemic brought about stringent restrictions and a downturn in the economy, leading to the closure of numerous businesses. However, Cajandig takes pride in the resilience they demonstrated, enduring all the trials that came their way. A key lesson he gleaned from this experience is the value of perseverance. They learned to persist and stay committed to their vision.

“Challenges are an inevitable part of our journey. We learn to accept them and find solutions within our capacity. Regardless of the lessons they bring, we grow and learn from each one,” Cajandig shared.

Due to the border restrictions in place at the time, their business operations were disrupted by a shortage of ingredients and other necessary supplies. Despite these challenges, Cajandig found innovative ways to cross borders and secure the needed supplies for their restaurant. This incident underscored for him the critical role of the food supply chain and its impact on their operations.

At the height of the pandemic, Cajandig faced financial difficulties. With Café Cerveza lacking regular customers, there was no stable income. As a government employee with a steady salary, Cajandig generously donated a month's worth of his salary to his ten employees, aiding them in weathering the pandemic.

As restrictions began to ease, they ventured into offering a food delivery service to accommodate customers who wished to order but were unable to leave their homes. This strategy proved effective and played a crucial role in the survival of their business.

Café Cerveza maintains competitive pricing, striking a balance that ensures affordability without compromising on value, even amidst inflation.

Tupi’s Culinary Trailblazer: Café Cerveza Gastropub Experience

For Cajandig, the well-being of his staff is of paramount importance. He prioritizes their welfare as employees, recognizing that their growth and development are integral to the success of the business. He fosters a familial atmosphere, treating each staff member as part of an extended family. However, when it comes to performance evaluations, he maintains a strict approach to ensure the highest standards are met.

Cajandig leveraged his prior experience as a fast food crew member to inform the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of Café Cerveza. His past insights served as a valuable reference point, contributing significantly to the enhancement of their business operations and management strategies.

In addition to their SOP, Cajandig harnessed the influence of social media to enhance brand visibility, attract a following, and ultimately convert these followers into loyal customers.

Utilizing the power of social media

“We need to create buzz on social media,” he said.

Cajandig immersed himself in online resources to master social media strategies. He gleaned numerous insights from relevant YouTube content and adeptly applied these learnings to their business operations. This approach proved fruitful, as they witnessed a surge in popularity, bolstered their brand visibility, and amassed a substantial follower base.

Certain pieces of their content even achieved viral status, catapulting them to become one of the most engaging local establishments on social media.

When the country lifted border restrictions, Café Cerveza experienced an unexpected flow of visitors, many of whom were not local to Tupi. Their engaging content on Facebook sparked curiosity about their establishment and enticed many to sample their cuisine. In response to this growing interest, they expanded their premises to accommodate a larger number of patrons wishing to dine in their gastropub. The extent of their success exceeded their initial expectations.

'We've never benchmarked other establishments. Instead, we've drawn our strategies from social media. It's fair to say that it's all been a process of self-learning. We've also been able to impart what we've learned to others,” Cajandig shared.

Tupi’s Culinary Trailblazer: Café Cerveza Gastropub Experience

Even with a loyal fan base, they inevitably faced instances of customer dissatisfaction, leading to unfavorable reviews. However, they took these critiques in stride, acknowledging their shortcomings and making amends for any inconvenience caused. These experiences served as valuable lessons, spurring them on to continually enhance their services.

Café Cerveza offers a delightful birthday gimmick for customers celebrating their special day at the gastropub. Their staff, including OJTs, deliver high-energy performances while singing the classic “Happy Birthday” song. Notably, a video featuring Ronald Bodyang’s low-energy performance went viral on their Facebook page.

Their Facebook page has evolved into a platform for promoting local destinations and establishments. They have embraced collaborations and partnerships with other local businesses, the municipal and provincial governments through the tourism office, as well as other government agencies.

Tupi’s Culinary Trailblazer: Café Cerveza Gastropub Experience

Highlighting the Municipality of Tupi

Tupi is a municipality situated in the province of South Cotabato, within the SOCCSKSARGEN region. It is a landlocked area with a population of 73,459 people, as per the 2020 census, spread across 15 barangays. The municipality is nestled at the base of Mount Matutum, a dormant volcano, and is recognized as the fruit, vegetable, and flower basket of South Cotabato. The fertile volcanic ash soil makes it an attractive prospect for investors, particularly in the agricultural sector.

At the beginning of Café Cerveza, Cajandig pondered how to integrate the establishment into the fabric of Tupi. One of the initial hurdles was his lack of local connections, given his roots in Tacurong City.

“Our integration into the Tupi community seemed to occur organically. The locals have observed our engagement in community outreach initiatives through ‘Café Cerveza Cares’, our support for local businesses, and our collaborations with the local government,” Cajandig reflected.

Tupi’s Culinary Trailblazer: Café Cerveza Gastropub Experience

Café Cerveza's Facebook page serves as a vibrant showcase of Tupi, featuring everything from local attractions and establishments to localized memes. This digital platform has not only elevated Tupi's visibility within Region 12 but also introduced it to a global audience.

The compelling content has sparked interest among many, making Tupi a sought-after destination. The local community has expressed appreciation for these efforts. Furthermore, Café Cerveza's innovative initiatives have inspired others, establishing them as one of the trendsetters in the region.

Café Cerveza holds the distinction of being the first restaurant in Tupi to receive accreditation from the Department of Tourism (DOT). This recognition provides a significant advantage for Cajandig and his team, as it enhances their brand's credibility and appeal.

The DOT accreditation is a certification that validates a tourism enterprise's compliance with the minimum operational standards for tourism facilities and services. This official recognition, which is periodically required for primary tourism enterprises, assures the quality of facilities and services offered by these establishments.

Tupi’s Culinary Trailblazer: Café Cerveza Gastropub Experience

It also offers benefits such as endorsements to fellow government agencies, embassies, and travel trade organizations and prioritizes the enterprise in the department’s training programs. Moreover, it assists the DOT in monitoring each establishment's adherence to industry standards.

Café Cerveza is an active member of the South Cotabato Tourism Council. Their manager, Rez Mark Sumog-oy, serves as the treasurer of the council. Their representation advocates for the food industry sector within the province of South Cotabato.

Additionally, “Café Cerveza” is a brand that has been registered with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), facilitated by the Department of Trade and Industry. This registration grants “Café Cerveza” legal protection over its unique attributes, which may encompass its name, logo, or any other distinctive features that set it apart from other businesses.

Tupi’s Culinary Trailblazer: Café Cerveza Gastropub Experience

The team has been invited to share their experiences at different events, organizations, and schools, including the South East Asian Institute of Technology, Inc. (SEAIT). This institution has established a partnership with Café Cerveza, providing an opportunity for students to gain practical experience through on-the-job training under their management.

At Café Cerveza, they actively welcome out-of-school youth as part of their staff, providing them with valuable opportunities for both personal development and career growth.

Café Cerveza currently operates branches in Tupi and Tacurong. Cajandig has plans to expand through franchising into other areas within the region. However, before venturing into franchising, a thorough feasibility study is essential.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our esteemed Ka Cerveza for your continued patronage. Your unwavering support fuels our commitment to delivering exceptional service and enriching experiences. Thank you for being a vital part of our journey.”

“In Café Cerveza, customers may start as strangers when they enter and dine, but by the time they leave, they’ve become our friends,” he warmly expressed.



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